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The best travel credit cards in Canada for 2023

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Travel can be expensive, but a good travel credit card can help offset the cost — or help you travel for free — by rewarding you points or miles for making everyday purchases.

In addition to earning points that can be redeemed for everything from flight tickets and hotel stays to cruises, vacation packages and more, several travel cards also offer side perks including access to airport lounges, welcome bonus offers, and travel insurance that can further help you save on travel.

To help you decode the ins and outs of travel rewards programs, we’ve rounded up the best travel credit cards in Canada for 2023.

The best travel cards for
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Best travel credit cards in Canada for 2023 - by category

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Best overall travel credit card

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The American Express Cobalt continues to cement its place as one of Canada’s best travel credit cards in 2023. If you’re looking for a well-rounded, lucrative travel credit card that’s just as great for everyday spending as it is for travel, the American Express Cobalt has got you covered. Cardholders can take advantage of the strong travel insurance, impressive welcome bonus and flexible point redemption options. 

Offering an industry-leading five times the points (valued at $0.01 per dollar) on eligible restaurants and food delivery purchases, three times the points on eligible streaming services, and twice the points on travel and daily transit, the American Express Cobalt easily takes our prize for best overall travel credit card in Canada. 

Pros

  • Great welcome bonus - Earn 2,500 points for each month you spend $500, up to a maximum of 30,000 points—that’s $300 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets.
  • Flexible and easy point redemption, allowing cardholders to redeem their Membership Rewards for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or purchases. Frequent flyers can also transfer their points 1:1 to several loyalty programs. 
  • Earning potential for restaurants and takeout is significantly higher than most other cards
  • Access to Front of the Line Presale and Reserved tickets to concerts, theater performances, movie screenings, and culinary events, along with other special offers
  • Strong travel insurance package including up to $5,000,000 in travel emergency medical 
  • No fee for additional authorized users (an average fee of $30 - 50 on other comparable cards) 

Cons

  • Monthly fee of $12.99 (coming to an annual fee of $156, which is higher than most other rewards cards) 
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard
  • Travel insurance package does not cover trip cancellation or medical coverage for cardholders over the age of 65
  • Airport lounge access isn’t provided, which may be disappointing to frequent travels

Honourable mention for best overall travel credit card

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The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card is our honourable mention for best overall travel credit card as it has a best in class return on spending. This includes a 5 times multiplier for every $1 spent on groceries, restaurants, food delivery and entertainment and 3 times multiplier on gas and transit which adds up to a ton of points on your everyday purchases. On top of that, cardholders will not have to pay a foreign transaction fee on foreign currency purchases and have access to a cohesive travel insurance package. The Scotiabank Gold American Express card is a great travel companion offering significant savings. 

Pros

  • No foreign exchange fee on any foreign currency purchases while traveling abroad or shopping online (typically a 2.5% fee)
  • Extensive insurance coverage - The $1 million travel medical insurance lasts for 25 days, which is one of the longer coverage periods you’ll get. 
  • High average % return on spending (5 points per $1 on purchases) - best in class multipliers across groceries, restaurants, entertainment, gas and transit
  • Great welcome bonus with the opportunity to Earn up to $850 in value in the first 12 months, including up to 45,000 bonus Scene+ points, and have the annual fee waived in your first year. Offer ends April 30, 2023.
  • Access to VIP airport lounges and around the clock concierge services 

Cons

  • Points will expire if they are not used with 12 months of the purchase date
  • American Express isn’t as widely accepted in Canada compared to Visa and Mastercard
  • Annual Fee $120

Best no fee travel credit card

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The American Express Green Card takes our prize for best no-fee travel credit card card due to its healthy welcome bonus, point accelerator for travel purchases, redemption flexibility and great perks. 

Cardholders earn one point per dollar which can be doubled when booking travel expenses through American Express Travel. Users can choose to cash in their points on travel (booked on American Express Travel Online through the Flexible Points Travel Program), gift cards and merchandise through Membership Rewards, groceries and other everyday purchases through Pay with Points, or eligible purchases at Amazon.ca. Not only that, but you can also transfer your points to travel loyalty programs such as Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy. 

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $1,000 in purchases to your card in the first three months of cardmembership - that's $100 towards groceries or concert tickets.
  • Opportunity to effectively double your points when booking travel through American Express Travel
  • Flexible redemption options: travel, gift cards/merchandise, everyday purchases, Amazon.ca
  • Transfer your points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and loyalty programs like Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easier to save on flights and accommodations while abroad

Cons

  • Standard earn rate of one point per dollar isn’t particularly competitive with other no fee rewards cards
  • Fairly lean insurance package extended warranty and purchase protection only. If you’re interested in more comprehensive coverage, other no fee cards offer more in this area.
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Best travel credit card with no foreign transaction fee 

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The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card is the best credit card for traveling in Canada as it is one of few cards waiving foreign transaction fees (a saving of 2.5% on all foreign currency) in addition to valuable travel benefits like comprehensive travel insurance, airport lounge access worldwide (with 6 free visits per year), and the ability to redeem your Scene+ points for travel. 

Pros

  • One of the few Canadian credit cards to offer no foreign transaction fees (saving you 2.5% on all your purchases made in a non-Canadian currency)
  • Earns three Scene+ points for every dollar spent at participating grocery stores like Sobey's, IGA, and FreshCo, among others; two Scene+ points for every dollar spent on eligible grocery, dining, entertainment and daily transit purchases
  • Flexible point redemption
  • Priority Pass membership with six free visits per year to over 1,200 lounges worldwide
  • Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Visa Infinite Dining series
  • Complimentary Avis Preferred Plus membership
  • Comprehensive travel insurance including coverage for emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and flight delay, among others

Cons

  • Annual fee of $150 is higher than the average for cards of this calibre
  • Much lower return than other cards with comparable annual fees

Best Visa travel credit card

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The TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite is the go to credit card for frequent travellers looking for a Visa travel credit card thanks in no small part to its flexible airline options and high return on travel spending.

Through TD’s and Expedia’s co-branded website (Expedia for TD), cardholders can earn and redeem points for flights from hundreds of airlines as well as hotels and other travel-related expenses, such as car rentals and all-inclusive vacations.  

Pros

  • Welcome bonus: Not available to display at the moment.
  • Earn 8 TD Points per $1 on travel through Expedia for TD, 6 TD Points per $1 on groceries and restaurants, 4 TD Points per $1 on recurring bill payments, and 2 TD Points per $1 on everything else
  • Points can be redeemed on virtually any airline or hotel of your choice through Expedia for TD
  • Redeem points in increments as low as 200 (one dollar)
  • 10% off car rentals from select Avis and Budget locations and an annual discount to Priority Pass Memberships
  • Extensive travel package including emergency travel medical (up to $2 million), trip cancellation/interruption, plus more

Cons

  • Minimum personal income of $60,00 and annual fee may be prohibitive to some users
  • Other cards of this level offer higher point value for categories like dining, entertainment, etc.
  • No complimentary airport lounge access (but there is a 20% discount off Priority Pass membership)
  • No waived foreign transaction fees - users who intend to use the card for shopping abroad may want to consider this

Best Mastercard travel credit card

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The BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is a popular card for frequent travellers seeking a Mastercard and tend to spend big on going out and airfare. With this card, you’ll get airport lounge access, full suite of travel insurance, perks and flexibility in redemption. BMO Points can be redeemed for flights, as well as hotels, vacation packages, and car rentals at a rate of 150 points for $1 (or about 0.67% per point). 

Pros

  • Welcome bonus: Earn up to 60,000 points and the annual fee waived in the first year for both the primary cardholder and authorized users.
  • Earn three points per dollar on restaurant, entertainment purchases, and recurring bills, and one point per dollar on everything else
  • Considered to have one of the best insurance packages on the market; full suite of insurance including $2 million in out-of-country insurance (versus the standard $1 million in coverage offered by most other cards)
  • 24/7 concierge services and complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass with four annual complimentary passes
  • Great flexibility offering cardholders the ability to redeem points for flights on virtually any airline with no blackout dates (points can be used to cover taxes and fees as well)

Cons

  • Minimum personal income of $80,00 and annual fee of $150 may be prohibitive to some users
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Best travel credit card for travel insurance 

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The National Bank World Elite Mastercard is one of the best travel credit cards for travel insurance due to its extensive insurance coverage period and favourable terms for seniors. This card also provides out-of-province medical coverage for up to 60 consecutive days for those under 55 years old. That's almost three times longer than the standard 21-day coverage period offered by most other travel cards. Another great benefit is that as long as you partially pay for your travel arrangements with the card you are covered for travel insurance (with the exception of the rental car). Most other credit cards require you to pay the full fare.

In addition to the insurance benefits, the card also offers up to five points per dollar on eligible groceries and restaurants and two points per dollar on eligible gas and electric vehicle charging purchases, recurring bill payments and a la carte travel purchases.

Pros

  • Extensively thorough travel insurance package (including better insurance for seniors than most other cards)
  • Earn up to five points per dollar on eligible grocery and restaurant purchases, and two points per dollar on eligible gas and electric vehicle charging purchases, recurring bill payments and a la carte travel purchases
  • Up to $150 each year in refunds for travel expenses on airport parking, seat selection, check-in fees, airline ticket upgrades and access to airport lounges worldwide
  • Free and unlimited access along with one guest to the National Bank World Mastercard Lounge at Montréal-Trudeau airport
  • Welcome bonus: Earn 70,000 rewards points when you sign up for the World Elite® Mastercard®.
  • $250 refund for travel expenses

Cons

  • $150 annual fee is slightly higher than average for a card of this type
  • Complimentary lounge access only applies to Montreal airport
  • Annual income requirement of $80,00 is quite high and could be prohibitive to some users

Best airline travel credit card

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Aeroplan clients and frequent Air Canada fliers searching for a card to help them earn more on travel should look no further than the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite. This card is the best airline travel credit card on the market. The card’s limited-time welcome offer is impressive: Not available to display at the moment.. Users can earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent on eligible gas, grocery and direct through Air Canada purchases (including Air Canada Vacations) and 1 point per dollar on everything else. 

Pros:

  • Aeroplan points can be redeemed for flights on Air Canada or over 27 Star Alliance member airlines (including United Airlines and Lufthansa, to name a few)
  • Access to Air Canada perks: first bag checked free on Air Canada flights for the primary cardholder and up to eight travel companions (up to $30 in savings per traveler on flights across Canada and the US) plus the ability to earn credits towards achieving elite airline status
  • Up to $100 in Nexus Membership reimbursements available every 48 months; allowing for smoother cross-border travel within Canada or between the US
  • Comprehensive travel insurance benefits with up to 21 days of out-of-province/country medical emergency coverage, flight delay insurance, lost/delayed baggage insurance, and even hotel/motel burglary insurance for stays within the US and Canada
  • Can get double the Aeroplan points when using this card in conjunction with your Aeroplan card at participating retailers

Cons:

  • The card’s annual fee is $139 versus the $120 typically found on comparable rewards cards
  • The Aeroplan points program isn’t the most straightforward, and navigating your way around the program’s quite elaborate rewards chart / understanding how to best maximize points can require considerable effort
  • Aeroplan points can’t be redeemed on any airline but only on Air Canada and Star Alliance Members

Best hotel travel credit card

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The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is specifically made for hotel rewards, making it an excellent card for frequent travellers and one of the best hotel travel credit cards in Canada. With this card, you’ll earn five Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on eligible card purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program, and two Bonvoy points per dollar on all other card purchases. Points can be redeemed for free nights at more than two dozen hotel brands including Marriott, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, W Hotels, St. Regis, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton and Delta.

Pros:

  • More than 7,000 hotels worldwide under this loyalty program
  • Annual free night’s accommodation at any Marriott Bonvoy hotel 
  • Complementary Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status

Cons:

  • Does not include travel emergency medical insurance within the insurance package
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    Answer some questions so we can personalize our recommendations - this won't impact your credit score

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    We confirm your eligibility with our partner, TransUnion. This will be a ‘soft credit check’ which you can see but lenders cannot

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What are travel credit cards?

Whether you're frequently flying for business, a global adventure enthusiast, or just someone who appreciates a well-timed vacation, keeping a travel credit card in your wallet is a great decision.

Travel credit cards make your time abroad easier by giving you the ability to earn reward points (redeemable for travel purchases such as flights and accommodation) and enjoy perks such as complimentary baggage check and access to airport lounges. Travel credit cards also often come with extensive travel insurance for events such as lost/delayed baggage, trip cancellation, and more.

 

Why get a travel credit card?

Travel credit cards can save you money on travel expenses through the collection and redemption of points or miles. The points or miles you collect by using these cards for everyday purchases can be exchanged for discounts on flights, accommodations, and car rentals (just to name a few). Not only that, but some travel credit cards also come with added perks such as VIP airport lounge access, complimentary checked baggage, and priority boarding.

In addition, travel credit cards often carry extensive insurance benefits, including (but not limited to) flight interruption/cancellation, baggage loss/delay, emergency medical, and car rental collision loss/damage.

 

Travel cards vs. cash back cards

Unlike travel cards, which use a point-based reward system, cash back cards offer a percentage of cash back, especially when you use them to make specific types of purchases. Depending on the provider and card, you'll be free to redeem your cash back as a statement credit, use it to buy gift cards or merchandise, or put it into a savings account.

If you're wondering whether a travel rewards card or a cash back card is the better choice, consider your current lifestyle and what you like to spend money on. If you're currently travelling a lot and would only like to use your rewards on expenses like flights, accommodations, and car rentals, a travel rewards card will give you the most bang for your buck as these cards typically offer higher point values in that category.

If, however, you're going to be using the card for a wider variety of purchases, a solidly-earning cash back card may be the better bet. These cards usually offer higher points in a wider variety of categories, giving you the flexibility to earn and redeem in different areas like groceries, gas, recurring bills, and more.

 

General travel cards vs. co-branded travel cards

If you're a traveller who tends to stick to one hotel chain or airline, a co-branded travel card could be a great idea. These cards provide extra perks and rewards (room upgrades complimentary checked bags, etc.) to loyal customers, allowing them to attain elite level customer status much faster. Plus, you can often earn double the rewards if you use them in tandem with a membership card when making purchases.

For those seeking freedom and flexibility, a general travel card may offer more. These cards offer perks and rewards for general travel spending, but are usually tied into the card's annual fee. That is, the higher the fee, the fancier the bells and whistles. Many general travel cards allow you to book travel arrangements through their web portal to earn the highest possible points, giving you access to a wider variety of airlines and hotels than you would get with a co-branded card.

 

How to apply for a travel credit card in Canada

Before you apply for any credit card (including a travel card), you’ll want to first make sure you meet its eligibility criteria. This will be different for every card, but in general, here are the most basic requirements you’ll be asked to fulfill:

  • Canadian residency or citizenship
  • A Canadian credit file
  • Age of majority status in your home province or territory
  • Annual income (this will depend on the card’s minimum income requirement)

The vast majority of credit card applications are done online through the provider’s website, so here’s what you can expect from the process:

  • Read and confirm the details, terms and conditions of your chosen card.
  • Provide the personal information required (this usually includes your full name, date of birth, residential address, phone number, and email)
  • Provide your Social Insurance Number
  • Provide financial information such as your annual income and any recurring monthly expenses.
  • Confirm your identity by providing photos of an original government-issued ID such as a  passport or driver’s license
  • Take an extra moment to look over the information you’ve supplied, then submit your application.

It’s important to remember that credit card applications also typically involve a hard credit check, which can leave a mild, temporary mark on your credit score. While it’s easy to bounce back from this every once in a while, too many at one time will not only negatively impact your score but alert lenders that you may be someone desperate for credit, making them more hesitant to approve you. 

Overview: Travel credit card point values

Working out exactly how much a travel point is worth can be tricky – especially when considering there are well over a dozen major travel loyalty and frequent flyer programs in the country that each operate according to their own rules. To help simplify things, we’ve broken the value per point in dollars for some of the largest programs in Canada when redeeming for travel.

The point values above are exclusively for travel redemptions like flights and hotel stays (as opposed to the value you’d get when redeeming points for cash back, merchandise, or gift cards). For some programs, we’ve also provided the estimated average value – such as in the case of Aeroplan, CIBC Aventura, and Air Miles – since points values in these programs can fluctuate depending on which part of the world you’re flying to and when.

 

How to calculate the value of travel points

 Because not all redemption values are created equal, knowing a general method of calculating points or miles can be an enormous helping hand when trying to figure out what your rewards are worth.

Here's a basic calculation to use:

Cash value of the redemption x 100 / amount of points needed = cost per point

As an example, if you're flying from Toronto to Halifax, and it's going to cost you $300 before taxes (or 15,000 Aeroplan points), you would use the formula like this:

$300 x 100 / 15,000 = $0.02 per point

 

Do travel credit card points ever expire?

The answer to this question largely depends on which type of points we're discussing. For regular, bank-issued travel credit cards, your points will typically never expire as long as your account remains in good standing. This means no late/missed payments or fraudulent activity.

If you own a co-branded travel credit card that collects membership points for a program like Air Miles or Aeroplan, however, you may run the risk of your points disappearing if your account remains inactive for an extended period of time (usually 12-24 months, depending on the program). The good news? You can easily avoid this by taking even one action per year on your card. This could be as simple as donating points, transferring points, or redeeming points, and you don't have to be using the card for travel at the time. Once you do this, your deadline clock resets, giving your points another lease on life for the next one to two years.

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How to choose a travel credit card

With Canadians enjoying more choice thanks to an ever-growing array of travel credit cards, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to pick the one that works best for you. Luckily, by educating yourself about a few key features, it can be easier to select the card that matches your needs and spending habits the most. Here are some important things to consider:

Sign-up bonus

  • While bigger is generally better when it comes to sign-up bonuses, consider whether the card is the right fit for you in the long run. Simply put, don’t let an offer alone sway you into picking a particular card since you’ll likely keep it even after the offer ends.
  • You’ll also want to get familiar with the terms of the sign-up offer, as you may need to hit a minimum spend within a specific time frame in order to qualify for the bonus (i.e. making at least $1,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of opening your account).

Earn rate

There are two kinds of earn rates:

  • 1. A flat earn rate that offers the same number of points across the board for all types of spending – ideal for those who prefer simplicity and whose spending doesn’t skew to particular categories.
  • 2. Bonus earn rate that offers a higher return on specific categories like gas, groceries, or dining. To maximize rewards, you should ensure that any revved-up bonus categories match your spending patterns.

Flexibility

  • General travel cards offer great flexibility by letting you redeem miles or points for a range of items, including flights on any airline — an ideal option if you don’t favour a particular carrier.
  • Co-branded cards only let you redeem points with select partners, however, they often feature airline or hotel-specific benefits and perks typically not available on cards that aren’t affiliated with a specific loyalty program (i.e. free checked bags and discounts on companion flights).

Perks and benefits

  • While not as eye-catching as a big welcome bonus, perks can save you lots of money and make flying or hotel stays more enjoyable.
  • Important benefits to look out for include insurance (like medical, lost baggage, and hotel theft), rental car discounts, and airport lounge access.
  • Evaluate the relevance and value of a card’s perks by anticipating how often you’ll actually use them.

Annual fee

  • The majority of premium travel cards come with an annual fee averaging $120.
  • You’ll want to assess whether the card’s rewards and money-saving perks (like travel insurance) will help you come out ahead and offer more value than the annual fee (consider testing out our handy credit card calculator here).

Eligibility requirements

  • The top travel cards tend to have specific income and credit score requirements (typically around $60,000 and 650 respectively).
  • Ensure you fit the requirements rather than applying blind because a hard check on your credit rating could decrease your score by up to 10 points. The best course of action is to research if a card has an income requirement and check your credit score before you apply (note: unlike when a card issuer or bank inquires about your score, checking your own credit score won’t impact it in any way).

 

Perks to look for in a travel credit card

When shopping for a travel credit card, the first things your eyes will likely go to are the welcome bonus and points/miles (for good reason), but those aren't the only features you should consider. Most travel cards also come with extra perks and benefits, which could be the deciding factor when you're deciding between two cards with equally lucrative point values. Below, let's look at some of the most common perks you should look out for:

Airport lounge access. Many travel cards will offer you membership to an airport lounge program and/or a certain number of free passes per year. There's nothing better than being able to relax before a flight in a quiet, non-crowded environment. Plus, the cash value will sometimes offset the annual fee of the card.

No foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees can add up while using your card abroad and eat into your travel budget fast. A card that doesn't charge you that extra 2.5% on each purchase will save you big money in the long run.

Complimentary baggage check. It's common for travel cards to offer a free first checked bag for you and a certain number of guests. As baggage check at any airport typically costs between $30-$60, this feature alone will save you money before you're even in the air.

Travel insurance. Of course, no travel card worth its salt would be complete without a travel insurance package. How extensive it is depends on the card, but in general most include coverage for events such as emergency medical, lost/stolen baggage, flight delay/cancellations, and more.

 


How to maximize your travel credit card’s rewards

There’s more to making the most of your travel credit card than just charging all of your purchases on it. With a little know-how and effort, cardholders can boost the benefits of any reward card.

1. One of the main ways to maximize your travel credit card (or any credit card for that matter) is to use it responsibly by paying off the balance in full each and every month. All the bonuses and benefits in the world won’t make up for the hundreds of dollars in potential interest charges you could add to your balance if you don’t pay it off in full every month. Not to mention the hit your credit score could take if you have a negligent repayment history. If you consistently carry a balance, a low interest credit card or one with a generous balance transfer option would likely be a better fit.

2. Travel credit cards are geared mostly towards travel redemptions. Though you can often use points or miles for statement credits, merchandise or gift cards, these options typically offer less value for your points than they would if redeemed for flight or hotel redemptions. For example, Scotia Rewards Points are worth $0.01 if you redeem them for travel, but lose about a third of their value if you redeem them for a statement credit. Generally speaking, if you don’t travel much yet want to reap significant rewards, it’s likely that you’ll get more bang for your buck with a cash back credit card instead.

3. Be a double-dipper. Sure, no one likes a double dipper when it comes to chips and dip, but the practice can up your rewards game by letting you earn additional rewards from an airline or hotel loyalty program when you use your travel credit card. For example, if you carry an Aeroplan credit card, you’ll earn bonus miles when shopping on the Aeroplan Estore, super-charging your point accumulation.

 


Different travel redemption models

There are three main redemption models by which travel credit cards operate, with each having its own level of difficulty in terms of ease of use. Some rewards programs, like American Express Rewards, even let you access multiple models.

  • Consistent points: This is when the points you earn have a consistent value and don’t fluctuate based on when or where you’re flying to. Scotia Rewards Points, for instance, always equal $0.01 when redeemed for travel. These consistent models are appealing because of their simplicity and transparency (i.e. it’s easy to determine the exact value of your rewards).
  • Fluctuating points: In this type of model, rewards don’t have a consistent value and change depending on where you go (as with Aeroplan) and possibly when you travel (as with Marriott Bonvoy, which recently introduced peak and off-peak point values). These models are usually based on charts and tables that cardholders must consult to know the value of their points. These programs are harder to understand and determining the value of your points isn’t as straightforward. That said, if you’re willing to do the research, they can offer unique and more generous redemption opportunities, such as far cheaper business class tickets or stays at ultra-premium hotels that might not normally be affordable.
  • Point transfers: Another interesting, if complex, point redemption model is when some cards let you transfer points from one rewards program to another. Marriott Bonvoy, for example, lets cardholders transfer Bonvoy points to the loyalty programs of over 40 airlines. Yes, you’ll have to put in some time to figure out the transfer ratio, but if you play it right, you can use this advantage to earn more points from one program and redeem them for a higher value by transferring them to another program.

 


Credit card travel insurance

While many of us will happily devote endless hours to deciding what attractions and restaurants to hit on an upcoming vacation, few of us give as much attention to another crucial element of a successful trip: travel insurance.

Luckily, there are many travel credit cards (especially premium cards that carry an annual fee) that offer travel insurance as a key perk. While the variety, monetary amounts and eligibility qualifications (like age) tend to vary, overall a travel credit card’s insurance offerings can be one of its most attractive benefits. That’s because buying travel insurance on your own could otherwise cost you around 4% to 10% of your total trip, meaning that a comprehensive insurance package could save you hundreds of dollars. Of course, those savings can exponentially increase if you need to make a claim.

 

Types of credit card coverage

Many of the best travel credit cards in Canada offer more than a dozen types of insurance, ranging from hotel burglary to trip interruption and delayed baggage coverage. The card and coverage that works best for you will depend on your travel needs. Here’s a look at some of the main types of insurance.

 

  • Out-of-Province travel emergency medical

While your province’s healthcare plan will generally cover doctor and hospital visits within its borders, most provincial plans cover very little for medical issues when you venture outside – within Canada or internationally. That’s where out-of-province travel emergency insurance comes in.

This insurance will cover claims for any injuries or illness (like a hospital stay, the care of a private nurse and major dental expenses) up to a certain amount – usually around $1 million.

Take note that pre-existing conditions usually won’t be covered. Age plays a large part in emergency medical coverage too. For those under 65, some cards may cover as much as 20 days or more. Unfortunately for those 65 and over, many insurers offer as few as four days of coverage or no coverage at all – though there are exceptions.

As this is the most crucial and expense-offsetting kind of insurance most travellers will need, it’s essential to contact your credit card company to ensure you’re fully informed about what conditions are covered or excluded.

 

  • Travel accident coverage

Similar to emergency medical insurance, travel accident insurance specifically covers you for dismemberment or loss of life sustained while on a common carrier (i.e. plane, train etc). In the case of death, your spouse or estate would receive the payout. Claims include medical emergencies like loss of limbs, sight and hearing.

 

  • Travel Interruption / cancellation coverage

Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance are slightly different.

For trip cancellation, you’re only covered from the moment you book the trip until you depart. For this policy, your credit card insurance will reimburse the non-refundable portion of your trip (like your flight) up to a max amount. Be aware that you can’t just cancel your travel for any reason. You’ll only be reimbursed for specific cases like illness, a death in the family, and travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel.

Trip interruption insurance, however, kicks in once the trip starts and applies until travel is completed. It covers you up to a fixed amount for non-refundable expenses (like pre-paid accommodation) when you have to cut a trip short. Acceptable reasons for not completing a trip include severe weather conditions and serious injury or illness that makes you or your travel companion unfit for travel.

 

  • Flight delay insurance

This insurance protects you from unexpected expenses related to a delayed flight. Possible causes of delay include bad weather or striking employees. Reimbursements can include meals and hotel expenses. Payout amounts differ per card.

 

  • Lost/delayed baggage

Delayed baggage insurance covers the cost (to a maximum reimbursement amount) of essential items like clothing if your checked baggage is delayed for a specific period of time, usually four hours or longer.
Lost baggage insurance reimburses you up to a set amount for lost personal property if your checked bag is lost by a common carrier (like airlines).

 

  • Rental car collision loss/damage

Collision and damage insurance covers you for costs related to a damaged or stolen rental vehicle. It only applies to your specific rental car and does not cover harm to other cars, people or property (for which you would need to purchase liability insurance). For collision and damage insurance to come into effect, you must decline the rental company’s optional collision damage waiver. Collision/damage insurance can easily cost $20 a day, making this credit card benefit a real money saver. Note that exclusions can include luxury cars, motorcycles, RVs and more.

  • Hotel/motel burglary

Hotel/motel burglary insurance covers the cost of belongings that are stolen while you’re checked in at a property. You’ll only be reimbursed up to a predetermined amount. This form of insurance often includes a variety of exclusions, like a proviso that the hotel/motel must be in Canada or the US, and that the cardholder must charge the full cost of the accommodation to the card. This credit card insurance perk is one of the rarest in Canada.

 

Travel credit cards: pros and cons

Now that we've learned all about travel credit cards, here's a quick summary of their pros and cons so you can decide if they're right for you:

Pros:

  • Collecting points or miles can save you money on travel expenses (flights, hotels, car rentals, etc.)
  • Comprehensive travel insurance packages 
  • Extra benefits such as VIP airport lounge access, priority boarding, complimentary checked baggage, etc.
  • Generous welcome offers that allow you to earn introductory points
  • Some cards will let you transfer your points to airline and hotel loyalty programs

Cons:

  • Travel cards typically come with annual fees 
  • Point redemption flexibility may be affected by blackout periods
  • You may have to spend a certain amount on the card to take advantage of welcome offers
  • In some cases, you can lose your travel points/miles if your account is inactive for too long

 

Important things to know about travel insurance

To get the most out of your credit card travel insurance, it’s vital to read the fine print. There’s an array of exclusions, eligibility requirements and compensation amounts. Here are some key points:

  • For the insurance to kick in, requirements vary. You’ll usually need to charge anywhere from 75% to 100% of the cost of your trip to your card.
  • As noted above, coverage only lasts for a specific number of days depending on your age. Those 65 and older are usually only offered very limited (if any) coverage. You’ll need to pay out of pocket for extra travel days.
  • Most credit card insurance plans will cover not only the policyholder but also eligible travel companions like a spouse and dependent children. Check with your provider who is covered and for what specific monetary amounts.
  • Time can be crucial when making a claim. For example, many companies insist on being alerted beforehand (unless in extremely urgent circumstances) of any medical procedures like major surgeries. Many also have a set period in which a claim must be made, such as within three months of the event, or coverage will be forfeit.

Also read:

What is the best credit card for travel points?


Do all credit cards have travel insurance?


Do you need a credit card to travel?


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